Balancing act: Lunches out are fun, but are they worth the money?
According to the Visa survey, Midwesterners went out for lunch just 1.7 times a week and spent only $8.90 per meal, while Westerners went out 1.8 times a week and spent an average of $10 on each meal.
Respondents in the Northeast ate out only 1.5 times each week, but they spent an average of $11.40 per meal. And Southerners led the country in weekly lunch spending, according to the Visa survey, paying $10 each time for an average of two weekly lunches out.
This is all interesting, but as I mentioned earlier, the real question is whether eating out for lunch is worth the money.
From my perspective, my Friday lunches and other noontime meetings with friends are definitely worth the small hit to our family budget. But sometimes I have to eat out for lunch because I just didn't have the time or inclination to prepare food for myself. On those days, I often find myself wishing I wouldn't have spent money on a basic sandwich or cheeseburger.
“Simple choices have a large impact on your wallet," Nat Sillin, Visa's head of U.S. Financial Education, said in the press release about the survey. "Don’t blow your budget on burgers and fries.
"Clipping a coupon, choosing a less expensive item or brown bagging it can save you hundreds over the course of a year. Eating lunch at a restaurant isn’t a bad thing, but it has to fit within your budget. Going into debt for a tuna sandwich isn’t worth it.”
Too true. Especially because tuna is nasty.
I'd be interested in your take on this topic. How often do you eat out for lunch during the workweek? How much do you spend? And do you think those lunches out are worth the money?
Send me an email or leave a comment with your reactions, and I'll share some of your thoughts in a future column.